In 1997, Emmy award-winning make-up artist Michael Key realized there was a void in his industry. A trade show for make-up artists didn’t exist. So, that year in Los Angeles, Key held the first International Make-up Artist Trade Show (IMATS) not knowing if anyone would even attend.
“All of a sudden you’re in a room with thousands of people that think and do like you do,” said Key, the executive producer of the IMATS. “It’s a very affirming, very emotional, very moving thing to be able to connect with people like that. There was this magic that happened.”
IMATS sold out in its very first year, setting high standards for the trade show’s future. Today, more than 15 years later, IMATS are now held in six cities worldwide. Hundreds headed to the Metro Convention Centre on Nov. 9 and 10 for Toronto’s IMATS.
Keynote speakers like Emmy award-winners Eve Pearl and Kevin James Bennett educated attendees on fashion week make-up trends, airbrushing techniques, fantasy make-up, how to make it in the business and more. More than 50 companies, including MAC Pro and Nars Cosmetics, demonstrated and sold the newest products and tools.
Key says he originally started the trade show for make-up artists, but the public was always welcome to attend. However, with the advent of YouTube, amateur make-up enthusiasts began to flood IMATS events worldwide at an astonishing rate.
“In 2009, YouTube exploded. YouTube totally changed what we do and it’s been a double-edged sword,” Key said. “It was a good thing, but it also created a challenge.”
Key said it’s difficult to balance the needs of YouTube-inspired attendees with those of veteran professional make-up artists. Key doesn’t want IMATS to stray too far from the needs of professional make-up artists. Kali Lambert-Fitzpatrick, 13, watches make-up tutorials on YouTube all the time and talks excitedly about meeting some of her idols.
“All my favourite YouTube make-up artists are going to be here,” Lambert-Fitzpatrick said. “But I also want to see how professionals do make-up for movies and how they do special effects.”
IMATS honoured Toronto’s rich cinematic history with its Battle of the Brushes competition. Recent make-up artist program graduates raced against the clock to create masterpieces worthy of the $1000-dollar cash prize, while working with a Wizard of Oz theme.
Margaritta Topielski, academy director at Make-up Forever Academy in New York City, says many students in their make-up artist certification program are Torontonians. The academy’s presence at IMATS is strategic, as they are considering opening another school in Canada.
“Toronto is a very good, huge market for cosmetology and make-up,” Topielski said. “We are looking at different markets, but Toronto is definitely one of the top markets we are considering.”
Key started IMATS so his make-up artist colleagues could connect and celebrate the art of make-up. With every year, the IMATS continues to grow.
“We built the company on the back of me being an award-winner and the company now no longer needs my reputation,” Key said. “The company now has its own reputation.”